SW Legal studies in Business

Supplier of Machine Insulated by Asbestos Had No Duty to Warn of Asbestos Dangers
Description

Washington high court held that the supplier of a machine to the Navy, which installed the machine with asbestos insulation, as the machine maker knew it would, had no duty to warn those who worked on the machine, and so contacted the asbestos, of the dangers of asbestos.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Duty to Warn; Asbestos

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

When Simonetta was in the U.S. Navy one of his duties, in 1958 or 1959, was to do maintenance work on a machine that desalinated saltwater. The machine was sold in 1941 or 1942 by Viad to the Navy. It was insulated with asbestos produced by another company. The machine was installed by the Navy. When maintenance was done on the machine, asbestos insulation was removed and then replaced. Simonetta contended that exposure caused the lung cancer he now has. He sued Viad, contending it violated its duty to warn him of the dangers of the asbestos insulation. The trial court granted summary judgment for Viad. The appeals court reversed, holding that under negligence and strict product liability, Viad has a duty to warn about the dangers of asbestos related to the product. Viad appealed.

Decision

Reversed. Viad did not have a common law duty to warn of dangers posed by asbestos insulation that it did not manufacture, sell, or supply, even though the seawater evaporator was built with the knowledge that insulation was required for proper operation. Under strict products liability law, since Viad was not involved in the production or marketing of asbestos insulation, it was not liable for failure to warn about its dangers. Viad was a supplier of one component to the Navy that was part of a larger operation. The component, the evaporator, was not defective, so it cannot be liable for defects related to the larger operation.

Citation

Simonetta v. Viad Corp., 197 P.3d 127 (Sup. Ct., Wash., 2008)

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